Pregnancy and Infant Loss, Up Close and Personal
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
At this time in my life I feel as if I could write a book on love, loss, and perseverance. I would likely begin with things nobody tells you about until you’re in the thick of them; I would likely begin with miscarriages. A miscarriage is lonely, painful, and demoralizing. When you have one, you will most likely mistake it for a personal failure but hear me, it is not. My son would have turned 4 last month had I been able to carry him to term. I had prayed for another child for 12 years and it just wasn't in God's plan for me, this I am closer to accepting every day, and am eternally grateful for the child he gave me.
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time when we remember the mama who experienced a stillbirth, the mama who experienced a miscarriage, the mama whose baby passed away, the mama who is unable to conceive, the mama who lost a multiple, the mama who lost her embryo, and the list goes on.
Although 15-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth there is a vast silence around pregnancy and infant loss in our society. The silence around early pregnancy can mean lack of support with pregnancy loss, many go unseen and therefore unacknowledged. It can feel very isolating, in the absence of others to stand up and say, “I see you,” or “I went through this, too.” There may be internalized feelings of shame or self-blame, like something went wrong on an individual level, rather than feeling like part of a shared experience among many.
While miscarriage is common, each person’s experience is unique. For those who were trying very hard to start a family or some like me who already has a beautiful child but have prayed for more children for several years, it means the loss of a life they had hopes, dreams and intense love for. Some experience pregnancy loss repeatedly, some choose not to try again, and others go on to have healthy pregnancies to follow.
It's a topic that many moms keep quiet for several reasons, reasons I understand, but I want to change this dynamic. It is so important to lift each other up, to pray for one another, and support each other during grief. All this to say.... there is no right or wrong way to feel. How you choose to take care of yourself and seek support is extremely personal and specific. Sometimes it’s hard to know what you need, or what would be most helpful; you might have moments when you realize, “you know what? I don’t want people to send sympathy cards. I want one good friend to sit and cry with, who won’t try to make me feel better,” or, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore, I just want someone to distract me.” Communication is key. People will often want to help but won’t know how. So, they’ll say or do whatever they think might be best but giving them directions can help them to support you in the ways that you need.
The death of a baby is a painful experience for a woman as well as the family. If your baby died during pregnancy or in the first days of life, you and your family may need help to understand what happened. You may need support to find ways to deal with your grief and ease your pain.
Miscarriage, stillbirth and other conditions can cause a pregnancy to end before or during birth. Infant death can be caused by preterm birth, birth defects, and other health conditions but sometimes the cause is simply unknown. If you’ve had any of these experiences, you may be overwhelmed by your feelings of grief.
Here are some ways in which you can honor your loss:
Share Your Story—Join a supportive space to share your story, connect with others and offer support to families with similar experiences—whether that’s infertility, pregnancy, or the heartbreak of loss. Visit share.marchofdimes.org/
Wall of Remembrance—Leave a message as a tribute to your loved one. Share your story, read the memorials, and honor the babies, moms, and moms-to-be who are gone too soon. Visit marchofdimes.org/remembrance
Unspoken Stories—Tell us your unspoken story and read stories from families who share an unspoken connection through their struggles, battles, wins and losses. Visit marchofdimes.org/unspoken-stories.aspx
Honor a Loved One—Family, friends and loved ones may wish to make a difference in a time of sadness and grief. Create a tribute in honor of or in remembrance of someone you love. Visit marchofdimes.org/diy
Be a Part of a Community—Join the Facebook March of Dimes Community Group. Connect with other families across the nation for support, comfort and friendship. Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/marchofdimes
Join March for Babies: A Mother of a Movement™—Honor those born preterm or with birth defects, remember and pay tribute to those lost and connect with others who share your commitment to helping give every family the best possible start. Visit marchforbabies.org
I chose to share my experience with others while in the midst of shock, sorrow, and grief; many reached out to let me know they understood because they too grieved as I was, and it meant the world. There are some I will reach with this who have experienced this loss over the course of the past year, and this will be a raw and painful read. Know that the way you are feeling will get easier and you are not alone. Some are in the early stages of pregnancy and struggling with anxieties around this topic; for you, stay present and enjoy those early pregnancy changes as much as you're able. I have had good days and I have had days that tears get the best of me because just like each of you who have lost their precious babies know, just because we didn't get to hold them in our arms at all or for long doesn't mean they didn't exist. God knew them before they were formed in our womb, they were His before they were ours, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart", Jeremiah 1:5. He called them home.
If you are struggling with a pregnancy loss or infant loss and would like someone to talk to there are resources available for you.
Therapeutic Counseling & Consulting – 804-322-9955 – Our licensed therapists are available to you when you are ready.
Full Circle: Providing support for grieving children, families, adults, and communities through support groups, individual counseling services, remembrance programs, and grief education support. https://fullcirclegc.org/perinatal-loss-group
Richmond MISS Foundation: Providing support for families struggling with grief after the death of a child.
Compassionate Friends RVA: Local chapter meetings to provide group grief support, in a group setting, for families that have experienced the death of a child. https://www.compassionatefriends.org/chapter/compassionate-friends-rva
Postpartum Support International Support and resources to individuals and families through perinatal loss and bereavement coordinators; offers an online support group to connect grieving mothers. https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/loss-grief-in-pregnancy-postpartum Pregnancy After Loss Support: Online support group and resources. https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org
Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support: Services include phone counseling, support groups, online communities, community events and online education. https://nationalshare.org
March of Dimes: An educational site that explains what grief is, what it can look like among men, women and children and offers coping advice. https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/dealing-with-grief-after-the-death-of-your-baby.aspx Ending a Wanted Pregnancy: Support group for families ending pregnancy for medical reasons. https://endingawantedpregnancy.com Centering: Education and resources for the bereaved. https://centering.org/our-mission
Bereaved Parents of the USA: Support and resources to fellow bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents after the death of their loved one. https://www.bereavedparentsusa.org/chapters/find-a-chapter Walk with Me: Practical, financial, and emotional support to families who are learning to live in the wake of their child’s death prior to or shortly after birth. https://www.walkwithme-nonprofit.org
Exhale: Support and resources via text or phone line for individuals who had an abortion. https://exhaleprovoice.org Miscarriage Matters: Online support to those who have experienced pregnancy or early infant loss. https://www.mymiscarriagematters.org The Tears Foundation: Support groups and trained “Peer Companions” for bereaved families who have experienced the death of their baby. https://thetearsfoundation.org/supportgroups
Support for Women of Color
Return to Zero (RTZ) Hope: Pregnancy and infant loss webinars and support groups specifically for women of color. https://rtzhope.org/bipoc Sisters in Loss: Support, resources and community for Black women who experienced pregnancy and infant loss. https://sistersinloss.com
Support for LGBTQ+ People
Return to Zero (RTZ) Hope: Virtual support groups and resources for LGBTQ+ families. https://rtzhope.org/lgbtq Pregnancy After Loss Support: Pregnancy loss resources for LGBTQ+ families. https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org/resources-for-lgbtq-families-experiencing-loss-and-pregnancy-after-loss
Support for Spanish Speaking People
Share Español: Esperanza: Grupo de apoyo ha sido creado para servir a familias de habla Hispana a afrontar el duro proceso de duelo debido a la trágica pérdida del bebé durante el embarazo, antes del nacimiento o durante los primeros meses de vida. https://nationalshare.org/share-espanolesperanza Miscarriage Matters Español: Proporciona apoyo en línea a aquellos que han experimentado el embarazo o la pérdida temprana del bebé https://www.mymiscarriagematters.org/miscarriage-matters-en-espanol
Home. Home | March of Dimes | Healthy Moms. Strong Babies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/
Pregnancy loss resources: Pregnancy and birth: Women's health. Pregnancy and Birth | Women's Health | VCU Health. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.vcuhealth.org/services/womens-health/our-services/pregnancy-and-birth/resources/pregnancy-loss-resources